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Is Your Heart Healthy? The 7 Metrics.

World Heart Day is celebrated every year on 29 September in order to raise awareness about Cardiovascular disease (CVD). This year, the theme is“Cardiovascular Health for Everyone.”. It aims to highlight the power of digital health to improve awareness, prevention, and management of CVD globally.

The theme specifies the increasing efforts by the authorities and governments across the world to ensure that the treatment of cardiovascular diseases reaches everyone in society and no one gets left behind. As it is often seen that many times the weaker sections and poorer sections of society are often denied their rights.

Children should maintain body weight below the 85th percentile; get more than 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily, and achieve various measures for healthy eating (Healthy Diet Score of 4-5 components), good levels of cholesterol (< 170 mg/dL), blood pressure (< 90th percentile), and blood glucose (< 100 mg/dL).

This leads us to the question, What are the Guidelines to maintain ideal Cardiovascular Health from birth through childhood to young adulthood and Beyond?

The 7 Heart Health Metrics

The Seven health metrics and behavior indicators that are used to determine if a child’s cardiovascular health is poor, intermediate, or ideal include:

  1. Smoking status: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 25% of high school students use some kind of tobacco product, and nearly 4,000 kids under age 18 try their first cigarette every day. In fact, 9 out of 10 smokers had started smoking before they finished high school. This means that if children can stay smoke-free in school, they will probably never smoke. More than 90,000 people die each year from heart diseases caused by smoking. Among young people who would otherwise have a very low risk of heart disease, cigarette smoking may cause as many as 75 percent of the cases of heart disease. And, the longer a person smokes, the higher the risk of heart disease. 
  2. Body mass index (BMI): For children and teens, BMI is not a diagnostic tool and is used to screen for potential weight and health-related issues. For example, a child may have a high BMI for their age and sex, but to determine if excess fat is a problem, a health care provider would need to perform further assessments. These assessments might include skinfold thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity, family history, and other appropriate health screenings.
  3. Physical activity level: The American Heart Association advises that all children 5 years and older get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. This should include a mix of moderate- and high-intensity activities. Limit the amount of time spent watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the Internet. Look into organized sports, lessons, or clubs that suit your child’s interests. Most importantly, spend time with your child, and create family outings that involve some type of physical activity (e.g., biking, walking, hiking).
  4. Healthy diet score: Eating more calories than they are burning during exercise and daily life. Other causes of obesity may include genetics, aging, gender, lifestyle, and illness. Obesity in children is dangerous because researchers believe that the fat cells we gain as children stay with us as adults. Obese children may have 5 times more fat cells than children of normal weight. Dieting in adulthood will decrease the fat-cell size but not the actual number of fat cells.
  5. Total cholesterol: Studies have shown that fatty plaque buildup begins in childhood and progresses into adulthood. This disease process is called atherosclerosis. In time, atherosclerosis leads to heart disease, which is the single biggest cause of death. In some cases, high cholesterol runs in families. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia. About 1% to 2% of children have this condition, and they should have their cholesterol levels checked before they are 5 years old. Other risk factors for high cholesterol include obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking.
  6. Blood pressure: High blood pressure is a serious condition in childhood and often goes undetected because it causes no symptoms. Make sure that your child’s blood pressure is checked at his or her yearly check-up. High blood pressure (hypertension) in children is not a congenital heart disease, but it can have a hereditary link. For that reason, children born into families with a history of high blood pressure need to have their blood pressure watched with special care.
  7. Fasting blood glucose:  (< 100 mg/dL).

The 3 Key Beneficiaries:

Recommended Eating Pattern For Optimum Health

The American Heart Association recommends this eating pattern for families:

This eating pattern supports a child’s normal growth and development. It provides enough total energy and meets or exceeds the recommended daily allowances for all nutrients for children and adolescents, including iron and calcium.

Note that cardiovascular risk factors present during childhood have been shown to be better predictors of future subclinical CVD development (ie, carotid intima-media thickness or coronary calcification) than cross-sectional comparisons performed during young adulthood.

This is no doubt a Wake-up Call.


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